Turkey

Salep

An Ottoman winter favourite remains a staple of Istanbul’s streets

Writer

Feride Yalav

Photographer

Zeynep Uygun

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On the first floor of the dilapidated Balkapan Han near Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar, the Kadem brothers sit at two separate tables answering phones and drinking their afternoon tea. In the window are strings of dried orchid roots festooned decoratively above a few sacks of loose tubers. Kadem Salepçilik has been a wholesaler of salep since 1960.

When temperatures drop in Istanbul, salep, a winter favourite among locals made of ground orchid root, makes its seasonal appearance in cafés, street carts and Turkish kitchens. Yet the story of salep, a hot drink with variations like ‘sahlab’ shared among many Arab countries, seems to be facing a sort of conundrum, wedged between its rich Ottoman past, a looming orchid population problem and the introduction of artificial salep drinks.

 

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An Ottoman winter favourite remains a staple of Istanbul’s streets
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